Paul's Blowback


A quick round-up of reaction to the New Republic's cache of Ron Paul's awful and embarrassing "Ron Paul" newsletters (which Nick Gillespie commented on here, and Dave Weigel hustled a terse Paul response to here).

Lew Rockwell:

TNR has a long and checkered history of pro-fascism, pro-communism, and pro-new dealism. Founded to promote the rotten progessive movement of militarism, central banking, income taxation, centralization, and regulation of business, it naturally hates and fears the Ron Paul Revolution. The mag is also famous for having published a slew of entirely made-up articles by Stephen Glass, which it passed off as non-fiction. Through the 1950s it was an important magazine, of sigificant if baleful influence, but it long ago declined in circulation and significance, like all DC deadtree ops. Long close to Beltway libertarians, for whom its politically correct left-neoconism is fine and dandy, TNR once published a cover story literally comparing Ross Perot to Adolf Hitler when he was running for president. That is the publication's style–hysterical smears aimed at political enemies.

David Harsanyi:

The end of Ron Paul? For me, it is. Not the principles, but the man. Sure, Paul has experienced tremendous grassroots support and I've been very sympathetic to a lot of his strong Constitution-based rhetoric. But if even a slither of the quotes in this New Republic article by James Kirchick are accurate, I'm not sure how mainstream libertarians can absolve him.

David Bernstein:

I give Paul the benefit of the doubt on this one, and assume that some right-wing cranks paid him to use him name on their newsletters, and he didn't actually read the newsletters carefully if at all, much less write them. That shows very poor judgment, but is a lot less damning than if he did read, write, or edit these newsletters.

[A]s Kirchik in TNR notes, there are really two disparate groups to whom the limited-government message appeals: philosophical libertarians (which consists of a tiny percentage of Americans, but something like 10% are at least inclined toward a general libertarian perspective), and those who hold a deep grudge against the federal government based on a range of nutty conspiracy theories, ranging from old chestnuts like a freemason conspiracy, a Council on Foreign Relations/Bildeberger conspiracy, or a conspiracy to strip the U.S. of its sovereignty in favor of world government; to variations on old anti-Semitic themes (ranging from domination by Zionist conspirators to domination by Jewish bankers led by the Rothchilds to domination by Jews in Hollywood); to newer racist theories; to novel conspiracy theories about 9/11, the pharmaceutical industry, etc.

Mainstream libertarian groups like Cato and Reason have nothing to do with the latter types, but other self-proclaimed libertarian groups, like the Ludwig Von Mises Institute, play footsie with them. (I recently turned down an invitation to do a book review for an academic journal published by LVMI because I don't want my name associated with the Institute.) Paul himself seems to have made a career of straddling the line between respectable libertarian sentiment and conspiracy-mongering nuttiness, receiving support and accolades from both sides.

But now that he wants to be taken seriously as a presidential candidate, he can't get away with it anymore.

Ryan Sager:

I truly don't understand the Paulites defense that Ron Paul bears no responsibility for any of this … just because. (Read the comments to the article — as usual for the Paul brigades, they're unhinged.)

At least Andrew Sullivan may be waking up to the fact that the Ron Paul "revolution" is a front for something much uglier than opposition to the Iraq war and defense of the Constitution.

Chuck Demastus William Flax:

The fact that our Neo-Cons have an army of would-be Sancho Panzas in the media, propagandizing America with slogans and half-truths, does not make their absurdity more valid. Nor should it make it more palatable.

But, oh how they vent their hatred on Dr. Paul.

Ann Althouse:

Look, I said it on Bloggingheads: The things Ron Paul has been saying made me suspect that his libertarianism was a cover for racism.

Orinn Judd:

A philosophy that is so entirely dependent on love of the self can't help but be plagued by hatred of the other.

Andrew Sullivan:

They are a repellent series of tracts, full of truly appalling bigotry. They certainly seem to have no echoes in his current campaign, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't be taken seriously […]

I don't know enough about the arrangements behind these pamphlets to tell if this is a plausible defense or not. But there is a simple way to address this: Paul needs to say not only that he did not pen these excrescences, he needs to explain how his name was on them and disown them completely. […] If there is some other agenda lurking beneath all this, we deserve to know. It's up to Ron Paul now to clearly explain and disown these ugly, vile, despicable tracts from the past.

Andrew Sullivan again, after the Paul response:

I'm very glad to hear it. Taking moral responsibility is the right thing to do. But I should say I think less of Ron Paul after reading this article than I did before. Much less.

Ken Layne:

The anti-war/hippie embrace of Dr. Congressman Ron Paul is one of the absolute strangest things to ever happen in politics.

Rand Simberg:

I'm willing to believe that he wasn't the author, and even that he didn't endorse the newsletter, but I find it troubling that he let this stuff go out under his own name for so long. The fact that he now takes "moral responsibility" for it now is nice, I guess, but it really makes one question his judgment. And his campaign continues to attract many unsavory elements of American politics, including 911 "Truthers," who he seems to unwilling to denounce.

Michael Goldfarb:

Dr. Paul isn't just kooky, he's deranged. […] [T]here is no plausible explanation that might insulate Paul from the fallout.

Matthew Yglesias:

I think Ron Paul's responses as given to Dave Weigel and now issued in a press release are reasonably reasonable. If you're a pro-life, anti-war, anti-immigration, libertarian I don't really see anything here that would make you suddenly embrace John McCain as a preferable presidential candidate. Meanwhile, it shouldn't really be surprising to see a link between a libertarian politician and white supremacists. The main constituency for Barry Goldwater's message was white supremacists, after all. 

Arnold Kling:

I think this is a very important moment for libertarians.

Me? I'm tempted to agree with the latter, but I'm not so sure, at least not in the same way in which I've heard pre-emptive anxiety for months from libertarians, who all seemed to be holding their breath waiting for this day to come. My personal preference for limited government (and limited thinking about government) really has never had anything to do with revisiting Civil War history, hatin' on uppity urban blacks and going all purple-faced about political correctness, real or imagined. And I can guar-an-tee that the general (and significant) trend toward political independence, don't-tread-on-meism, and especially a full-throated embrace of live-and-let live freedom, tolerance, and choice-driven exploration among people younger than me has bugger-all to do with Fear of a Black Planet. The source for freedom's popularity is not, and probably never will be, located in the mouth or heart or rancid old newsletters of any politician.